Hello Fellows: Meet Chong Lee
Wilder employees have the opportunity to apply for Kingston Fellowships, an honor awarded annually based on accomplishments, commitment to human services and leadership potential. In March 2016, Wilder awarded fellowships to 11 employees spanning a variety of professional backgrounds. The fellowships help these professionals to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and develop innovative programs to address community concerns.
In “Hello, Fellows,” we introduce the 2016 Kingston Fellows. This week, we catch up with Chong Lee.
What is your role at Wilder?
I’m a program manager for the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. I manage our partnerships. I manage contract agreements and provide logistical supports to partner programs. One of the roles that the Promise Neighborhood plays in all of our partnerships is support for infrastructure and capacity building. We do that because we want all of our partners to do what they do what they do best and that is to focus on program delivery.
I also support our director, Muneer, and our network of partners to support and strategize solutions that will work best collectively. It’s really building the bridge among community partners and SPPN’s Partner Schools to serve children and families.
Why did you decide to pursue this career?
When I applied for the position I was most excited about working in a community initiative that uses education as a tool to end multi-generational poverty. My job quickly unfolded to a position where I was able to not only work with community partnerships, but to think about how policy influences children’s and families’ lives. That was really when I really became interested in policy, because that’s where we can really have an impact.
What will you use the Kingston Fellowship to achieve?
I joined the Master’s in Advocacy and Policy Leadership (MAPL) at Metropolitan State University two years ago. I’m in the last semester of the program and will graduate at the end of December. What ’m learning in MAPL is very much supporting the work of the Promise Neighborhood, working to create opportunities for young children and young emerging professionals who are interested in policy and advocacy.
What unmet need in human services does your fellowship fill?
Speaking from my experience with the Hmong community, we don’t have many people in leadership positions who actually have the power to make decisions based on policies. Long-term, I hope to eventually use the knowledge that I’ve gained to train and teach young leaders. I want to be able to pass that knowledge on to those who have the desire to give back to the community. I have young people who come to me and say they want to give back to the community but they don’t know what that is. I want to be able to say where are some ways to give back not only to your family but the community at large.
Do you have an experience about diversity and cultural competence that you have encountered in your work?
I’ve worked with a variety of stakeholders and partners who don’t often work with diverse populations. What I’ve learned is that I need to understand each of the partner organizations, their programs, services and their level of engagement and work in the community so that I can speak to them. It can be very challenging, but I think I’ve found that when I’m able to do that I’m able to be inclusive of where they get these perspectives and experiences from. I’ve also learned to be careful about languages and vocabulary. When we talk about quality, when we talk about success, it doesn’t mean the same thing for every family. I work with our partners to create definitions in advance so that we have a common understanding and can use the collectively defined word to move and do our work.
Chong Lee is the Program Manager of the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood, a transformative education initiative that brings together families, schools, public agencies, and the community to change the odds for a generation of children.